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Umarov Dismisses Renegade Commanders


Doku Umarov

Doku Umarov

In a new 12-minute video clip posted yesterday on kavkazcenter.com and hunafa.com, North Caucasus insurgency head Doku Umarov announces the dismissal of the four Chechnya-based field commanders who withdrew their formal pledge of loyalty to him last month. He did not, however, name anyone to replace them.

Veteran commander Supyan Abdullayev, now apparently Umarov's de facto second in command, appealed to the four to reconsider, arguing that the militants should fight "as one family" to expel the Russian occupiers "who will not let us live by the law of Allah." Two other commanders reaffirm their loyalty and condemn the renegades.

The four men Umarov dismissed -- his former second-in-command Aslambek Vadalov, Tarkhan Gaziyev, Khusein Gakayev, and the Arab Mukhannad -- jointly explained their defection in terms of unspecified "mistakes" committed by Umarov and the lack of respect he displayed by first announcing his decision to hand over command to Vadalov, and then publicly retracting that decision.

Umarov in turn claimed in late August that the four sought to force his hand by presenting his offer to step down, for which he sought the approval of other commanders, as a done deed. The breakaway faction has not responded to that statement, possibly because the insurgency websites still under Umarov's control are reluctant to post statements by them.

Abdullayev for his part stressed that to violate the bayat (pledge of loyalty) is both a sin and a heavy responsibility. He acknowledged that the four may have considered they had valid reasons for doing so, and have acted with the best of intentions, but they nonetheless inadvertently harmed the common cause.

The two other commanders, whom Umarov identified as Amir Khamzat and Amir Islam, both reaffirmed their pledges of loyalty to Umarov. They were seated on Umarov's left in the video clip of August 30 in which Umarov gave his version of the events that precipitated the split within the insurgency ranks.

Umarov has not yet named anyone to replace Gakayev and Gaziyev as commanders of the southeastern and southwestern fronts, respectively. But he appears to be grooming a hitherto unknown younger commander to assume a prominent role. The commander in question features in new video footage shot in August, preparing a nighttime attack together with Abdullayev.

Addressing the camera in Chechen, the unnamed commander speaks dismissively of those young men who profess to be Muslims and regularly go to the mosque to pray but prefer a life of comfort to joining the insurgency. (The footage is shot in the forest in pouring rain.) The clip ends with still shots of the commander, first with Umarov and then with Abdullayev.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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